PDF produced by www.animationmeat.com
“Pose to Pose & Straight Ahead Animation” Notes 02.22.83
Entertainment X: “Pose to Pose & Straight Ahead Animation” by Eric Larson
Early in Disney animation the value of the “pose” was realized. To create the action needed,drawings were made inbetween to carry the movement from pose to pose. This procedure workedbut it also restricted the action since it, the action, was contained within two “extreme poses.” It waslike stretching a strand of barbed wire tightly between two posts — it didn't "give.” It exhibited acertain tight, mechanical feeling, with everything being moved the same distance at the same time,with no concern for looseness, overlap or follow through.But the need for such embellishments was quickly realized and the value of “straight ahead”animation was rediscovered — it being the ﬁrst approach to action in the infancy of the animated art.The “straight ahead” style was somewhat like the Mad Hatter's philosophy: “Start out to where youwant to go and when you get there — stop” It allowed for ﬂuid action but it lacked a degree of controland positivity and, in its way, was as limiting in its results as was the “pose to pose” approach.“Pose to pose” suggests a move from number one pose to number two pose to number three poseetc., paying due attention to the timing and overlapping action inbetween. “Straight ahead” suggeststhat in the action, thought is given to all the incidental or detailed actions and attitudes which might orcould add life and believability to the performance. For instance: How else might we work throughthe action of juggling the hat in a "take” by someone like W.C. Fields, or get the needed ﬂuidity in anaction like the Stag and Bambi racing through the burning forest or the pack of dogs threateningFaline?Certainly we should not be as zealots, insisting that this approach or that approach is the way.Disney animation is not tied down to a way — it's tied to spirit and performance in our characters,good drawing, creative imagination and the application of proven basics in good animation; weight,balance, squash and stretch, change of shapes, etc. So, the combination of so called approaches,letting one compliment another makes good sense. This allows the animator to get the dramaticstrength and control desired in working out his action in poses and then to make good use of theﬂuidity of the “straight ahead” method in the unfolding of the action.Poses, as we’ve so often discussed, express attitudes, moods, etc. But they serve other purposestoo. They keep us aware of the correct relative size and perspective changes in our character as wetake him through the action patterns in our scenes.
If our character is walking away from camera or walking toward it, we would do well to plan the action with aseries of drawings on a single sheet of paper, noting the depth of the perspective with ruled lines showingthe desired path of action in that perspective and indicating the relative increase in the height and volume ofthe character from distance to foreground or vice versa. The bottom line would control the foot placementsin the walk and the top line would indicate his normal height increase as he comes toward camera. Quicksketches, showing the desired body attitude and the progress of the character in each step are necessary.This planning will keep the length of each step in comfortable relationship to the body size. We would makeas many sketches between the distant and foreground poses as we would need to plan the length of eachstep and the size increase of the body — all this on one sheet of paper, assuring complete control of theaction and the ﬁgure size in our scene. In such a graph the relationship of the up (stretch) and the down(squash) positions in the walk would be indicated by graph lines, in proper perspective, above and belowthe line indicating the normal height of our character.
If the idea of “planning” on a single sheet of paper seems mechanical, rest assured that it is, butconsider it as a good way to get perspective control of the action through our scenes. In animation,few things are more embarrassing than a character not properly changing size as he comes into orgoes away from the camera or taking steps that are too long or too short for his body height.